"נישואין הם דבר רציני."
Translation:Marriage is a serious thing.
54 CommentsThis discussion is locked.
Actually, nuptial is a perfectly valid and commonly used word.
In Hebrew there are many words that don't have a singular form. For example מים (water) and פנים (face). But in English there are certainly some words that signify a single object but are pluralized, such as "pants" and "eyeglasses"/"spectacles". With respect to this particular word, first off, the suffix ן instead of ם has to do with the Aramaic origin of the word. I suspect that the word has a plural sense because in Jewish tradition it specifically encompasses quite a few different components of the marriage process.
Here's an interesting article I found on the subject: (it's in Hebrew, great practice) http://goo.gl/1wmEZA
In the English I have heard spoken in the northwestern, northeastern, and north central parts of the United States, one does not hear the singular noun "nuptial." The adjective "nuptial" is heard, as in "nuptial blessing," and the plural "nuptials" is applied to weddings, but the singular noun is not. "Nuptials" is, of course, simply a substantivized adjective, and I suspect that "nuptial" as a singular noun might at one time have been used for a nuptial mass, but we now only use it in the plural form, I assume originally referring to all the events having to do with the wedding.
I was interested in the origin of that word too and this is what I found: "I would argue/comment that eli left out the common meaning of the root of the word nissuin of "to elevate or to lift". and that to lift something includes the meanings of both to carry and to take. granted this is a bit of a semantical distinction, but i feel entitled considering the whole context here. In regard to the difference between kiddushin and nissuin, i was grappling with this a few months ago, as my yeshiva is currently learning kesuvos. Where I left off, is that kiddushin is not so much taking her to you as much as removing her from others, where nissuin is the actual taking of her to you as one entity/partnership." Source: http://havolim.blogspot.com/2010/03/question-what-does-nisuin-mean.html
Well, although נִשּׂוּאִין marriage is grammatically plural, it describes nontheless a single procedure. These kind of words can be described by single concepts, like מַ֫יִם נְקִיִּים הֵם זְכוּת אָדָם clean water is a human right or English alms are a freewill gift to those in need.
Ingeborg showed more examples, from more languages. I think it's fair to say these are "accidents" in the language - when a singular concept gets a plural wor - but accidents that do happen. I can imagine ways it can happen: (1) at an older time in the language history people thought of the thing as plural, and would say things like נישואין הם דברים רציניים; then the concept shifted to singular but the plural word remained. (2) The word began as singular, but due to its morphology people "mistook" it for plural - I imagine that's the case with מים.
Well, not formally. But it can be clear from the context (אֲנִי דּוֹרֵשׁ נִשּׂוּאֵי־יִתְרוֹן לִשְׁתֵּי בָּנוֹת שֶׁלִּי I require advantageous marriages for my two daughters) or made clear by attached pluralic attributes (אֲנִי נִכְשַׁ֫לְתִּי בִּשְׂנֵי נִשּׂוּאִים I failed in two marriages or לְמַעֲשֶׂה רוֹב הַנִּשּׂוּאִים שֶׁאֲנִי מַכִּיר הֵם נוֹרָאִים in fact, most marriages I know are terrible).
Well, originally the word is derived from the expression נָשָׂא אִשָּׁה, when you (as a man) take the bride into your household, which is different from the אֵרוּסִין betrothal (also a plural noun), which takes place some time earlier (with a virgin usually a year earlier). In my prosaic thinking I subsumed it into the category of abstract plurals like נְעוּרִים youth, סַנְוֵרִים blindness and בְּתוּלִים virginity, but maybe you can come up with a better explanation for these plurals used in judicalese terms.
This is awkward in English because נישואין is plural and דבר is singular. In English, these would be expected to match: Marriages are serious things, or Marriage is a serious thing. I'll bet this question scores a very high percentage of wrong translations because of this.
I don't understand this. Hebrew requires tense and number (singular/plural) to match, and נישואין seems female plural, הם for a single item (not mixed group) means male plural, and דבר is non-gender singular. How is this grammatically correct? Why not הן? Why not נישואים? Why not דברים?
Well, נִשּׂוּאִין is an Aramaic plural and indeed masculine. The Hebraized spelling would be נִשּׂוּאִים. I suppose, the word "marriage" was used much in Rabbinic writings, where Aramaic expressions abound, and so this form was retained in Modern Hebrew too. As "marriage" is a plurale tantum, i.e. technically a plural form for a single thing, you may call it a דָּבָר, like English "Scissors are a good thing to have handy."
Well, yes, but only by a close miss. Quote: "Ultimately, many of Ben-Yehuda's Arabic-based lexical neologisms were rejected, including וָזִיר (< Arabic wazīr) minister (in favour of שַׂר), זִבְדָּה (< Arabic zibda) butter (in favour of חֶמְאָה), לָטִיף (< Arabic laṭīf) nice (in favour of נֶחְמָד), רָצִין (< Arabic raṣīn) serious (in favour of רְצִינִי, with a more transparent adjectival form)."
the hebrew word for marriage is a singular noun. Why then is the pleural pronoun used, when it seems a singular pronoun should be used. Even more complicated, is that the adjective for "serious" is written in the singular. Marriage should be either singular or pleural, it can't be both.
Well, the word נִשּׂוּאִין is an Aramaic plural and used as the subject. The predicate is the singualar noun דָּבָר. You can combine a plurale tantum (a word which is formally plural, but expresses a singular thing) with a noun in the singular, consider English: Scissors are a good thing to have handy.